And NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt will be there to defend radio from musicFIRST’s latest push to get radio to pay a tax for airing music. We spoke to LeGeyt about what he plans to say today and what radio stations around the country need to do.
As you already know, the NAB has assembled over 230 members of Congress who support the Local Radio Freedom Act, which is a resolution opposing any new fees on radio for airing music.
musicFIRST, now led by former Congressman Joe Crowley, is pushing legislation that would require radio to pay a fee to air that music. The American Music Fairness Act (H.R. 4130) will be the topic for discussion today at 10:00AM in front of the House Judiciary Committee (watch the House hearing, where LeGeyt will be testifying, at 10AM HERE).
LeGeyt tells Radio Ink the hearing is an important opportunity for broadcasters to present their side of the story on the performance royalty issue. “Four years ago when this committee was wrapping up consideration of the Music Modernization Act, along with the music industry, we met with both Democrats and Republicans on the committee who asked us to sit down with one another to try to examine if there would be a win-win solution on this performance royalty issue. For 18 months we went behind closed doors and NAB presented the music industry several good faith proposals that would incentivize broadcast innovation, incentivize music airplay over radio and compensate artists for that increased airplay whether it was over the air or through a stream. The music industry never put a formal counter proposal on the table. I think it’s really important for these committee members to know that the broadcast industry stands ready and willing to see if a solution is out there that will help artists and allow us to continue to serve broadcast listeners and we don’t have a willing dance partner from the other side.”
musicFIRST recently called on iHeartMedia and Cumulus to come to the table to discuss the issue with them. That may be an attempt by the organization to drive a wedge between big companies and small companies in the radio industry. LeGeyt called it a publicity stunt. “The idea they would send out these letters on the eve of this Congressional hearing tells you everything you need to know that this is all about political posturing. It’s not about seriously trying to resolve this issue on behalf of their members.”
So if radio and the NAB were to go back to negotiating with artists about paying for music, what would a solution look like. LeGeyt says it has to include streaming. “There’s no doubt that the current legal framework around broadcast streaming is too burdensome, it’s too expensive. As a result broadcasters are not innovating in that space in a way they otherwise would. I think that’s a lost opportunity for broadcast listeners and it’s a lost opportunity for artists. Having a holistic conversation around simplifying the music licensing regime, making an innovation in the broadcast space, something that’s cost effective that to me is an area if that’s part of the conversation around resolving the performance royalty issue for terrestrial broadcast, I think that’s a conversation the broadcast industry should be willing to have.”
What should radio stations be doing to help the NAB and continue to fight the tax battle against musicFIRST? Contact your local elected officials, according to the NAB CEO. “The best thing they can do is contact their members of Congress and let them know this current proposal that’s in front of the Judiciary, The American Music Fairness Act, is far from fair. It’s a proposal that is economically untenable for local broadcast stations of all sizes. It would undermine our ability to be free and local at an exact time where communities need us most.”
Note Hubbard’s Joel Oxley will be testifying in front of a Senate Committee today at 3PM on the importance of a free press. Watch it HERE.
See if your elected officials do not yet support the Local Radio Freedom Act HERE.